M&E Journal: Adapting Your Content Model in a Direct-to-Consumer Economy

By Amos Biegun, Vistex, and Richard Whittington, SAP

Over time, studios have adopted several practices to manage rights. At first, tracking rights ownership was done manually, with sheets of paper and notecards that then moved to spreadsheets. Those spreadsheets eventually became too unyielding to the changes in the business, so systems were developed, both in-house and by early software developers who came up with solutions to fit the requirements of the day. For a while, rights seemed manageable for film and television distribution, albeit a little cumbersome due to the limits of technology available at that time.

Departments each had their own way of tracking rights associated with the IP licensed or owned, distributed and sold, and they were able to pull together relevant data when needed. This process worked for a while with the help of eager software developers, who could be relied on to ‘band aid’ changes to legacy systems, when needed.

Fast forward to the early 2000s, and that all changed with video on demand (VOD). YouTube forced the industry to look at user consumption of content in a whole new way in 2005, when it posted its first 18-second video. (Today, nearly 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.) The dawn of providing content to consumers when they wanted it instead of dictating a specific lineup required studios to rethink their delivery methods. Network television would still maintain its traditional linear programming; however, offering alternative methods to access the content at different times across multiple devices other than televisions quickly took off.

As technology continues to adapt the business on the front end, the back-end infrastructure was stretched beyond its limits. Manual and semi-automated workarounds were put in place and more enhancements were added to legacy systems to allow the business to run, and to provide lawyers and sales people with rights data needed to both clear and sell content while the business model evolved. This was like changing the tires on a car while it’s cruising at 85 mph.

Then subscription VOD (SVOD) was introduced and the business of entertainment changed yet again; only this time things got a lot more granular. Legacy systems became more taxed to clear rights and keep up with new and unexpected volumes of data. There was also a requirement to integrate with other legacy systems that hold rights data now required across the organization, and to extract relevant analytics to inform and guide management strategy.

Speed to market

A lot of investment has been made to keep things running. Leaders know, however, that keeping legacy systems hobbling along is ultimately not the answer; especially if they want to stay competitive. A wholesale rip-and-replace of legacy systems is also not the answer. There doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all replacement for every legacy system that exists today among the dozens across the studios. Still, there needs to be synergy between previously distinct business units, as rights are being sliced and diced in myriad ways just to keep up with consumer demand.

The solution to this complexity is a clearinghouse for rights that can initially ingest legacy data and assist as a single point of truth for the business to clear rights quickly, efficiently and accurately to all downstream systems, whether they are direct to consumer or those of your third-party partners.

These legacy systems can then be replaced one by one and merged into the clearinghouse, avoiding the need to keep multiple sets of data within a company’s back office. This allows for a lower risk and more manageable process which will continue until all rights information is migrated to a single repository. That way, cumbersome queries against multiple systems can be avoided and the speed to market can be virtually instantaneous.

Rights and royalty tracking

When these rights are exploited, the correlating incoming revenue transactions can then be ingested, validated, consolidated, processed and passed on to the legacy systems. Initially the processing will occur in these existing legacy systems, as these hold the contractual rules for paying participants and over time in the single rights & royalty system as the contractual information is migrated along with the rights information.

Together Vistex and SAP have architected this solution, allowing rights owners to utilize a Global Rights & Royalties Clearinghouse approach powered by the SAP HANA in memory database and Vistex’s Rights & Royalty solution which resides within the SAP ERP business suite.

Vistex and SAP HANA technology offer the business the tools to process hundreds of millions of records a day whilst sifting through billions of transactions of data (microtransactions which are too small to distribute) residing within their database.

Consumers are also a lot more technology savvy today. Not only do they want to choose their method and time of consumption, but they want it served up in a way that is both intuitive and smart.

If our smart phones have taught us anything, it’s that simple.


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